The Problem Solving Process

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For example, consider this problem statement: "We have to find a way of disciplining of people who do substandard work." This doesn't allow you the opportunity of discovering the real reasons for under-performance.

The CATWOE checklist provides a powerful reminder to look at many elements that may contribute to the problem, and to expand your thinking around it.

The articles in this section of Mind Tools therefore focus on helping you make a success of the first of these steps – defining the problem.

A very significant part of this involves making sense of the complex situation in which the problem occurs, so that you can pinpoint exactly what the problem is.

However, if you look a bit deeper, the real issue might be a lack of training, or an unreasonable workload.

help you ask the right questions, and work through the layers of a problem to uncover what's really going on.So, being a confident problem solver is really important to your success.Much of that confidence comes from having a good process to use when approaching a problem.There are four basic steps in solving a problem: Steps 2 to 4 of this process are covered in depth in other areas of Mind Tools.For these, see our sections on Creativity for step 2 (generating alternatives); Decision Making for step 3 (evaluating and selecting alternatives); and Project Management for step 4 (implementing solutions).Many of the tools in this section help you do just that.We look at these, and then review some useful, well-established problem-solving frameworks.The key to a good problem definition is ensuring that you deal with the real problem – not its symptoms.For example, if performance in your department is substandard, you might think the problem is with the individuals submitting work.With one, you can solve problems quickly and effectively.Without one, your solutions may be ineffective, or you'll get stuck and do nothing, with sometimes painful consequences.

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